My dear friend and fellow poet, John, makes the best pie. People always ask him what he does to get his crust so delicate and flaky. Once, when I asked him this, he told me about how he'd tried a lot of different techniques over the years; freezing the butter and grating it into tiny pieces, substituting vodka for ice water to create less moisture in the dough. But really the secret, he told me, is just being willing to deal with falling apart pie crust.
I love to bake and used to do it professionally. I like to get on one recipe and try different variations of it until I find my favorite. Recently, we settled on the perfect snickerdoodle. Other binges have included the great muffin week of 2017 as well as the banana cake bonanza of 2016. Recently, I've been more into pies. Banana cream, walnut, strawberry, rhubarb….I’m dreaming of something lemon...and another strawberry, since it is June. However, as a baker, pies are my Achilles Heel. I've found what John said to be totally true. Despite any tips or tricks you can try, whether you are into shortening or real butter, food processor or forks, pie crust making comes down to being willing to deal with something that wants to fall apart. I tend to swear and not appreciate an audience while I make pie crust- and I'm normally very relaxed in the kitchen. I've found my pies go better if I remain optimistic. Otherwise, I get rough with the delicate stuff and it makes whatever small tear I'm stressing over even worse. Gentle fingers that accept the truth of what's in them are best for making pie crusts that melt in your mouth.
I heard a story recently about a woman who goes to meditation regularly and has been pursuing her spirituality for several years through travel, study, and practice. She found herself in a real funk, and was complaining to a mentor about her suffering. He laughed and reminded her, "if you have expectations, you will suffer." She was humbled, because although she hadn't forgotten the first Noble Truth, "life is suffering," she had forgotten the greatest cause of suffering. Many translators say that, rather than suffering, what Buddha actually said in Sanskrit means something closer to impermanence and freedom from expectations, societal or otherwise. (For more explanation of the multi-faceted meanings of “dukkha,” check out this site: https://www.thoughtco.com.)
I have been thinking about this lately, as I am at one of those exciting times in life when I am not really sure what is coming next, and there's a lot I can't control right now. But I can control my need to control the small imperfections that make life beautiful, memorable, and unique. I can't ever get this time back right now, in which all things seem possible, and that is a precious place to be. It allows you to dream, of lemons pies or better versions of yourself, or whatever it may be for you. The trick is not to get attached to one specific version of your fantasies, even the one where you become somehow a more enlightened version of yourself. Because we are not all here to be Buddha. All we can do is practice non-attachment, while accepting that we are only human, with little human egos, fragile as pie crust. We can make pies with spring fruit and practice letting our fingers be soft. We can take the scissors out to the garden box in the light June rain and prune the cinnamon basil for clippings. We can coat them in sugar and sprinkle them on top of a strawberry pie to hide the small tear, that no one will notice, as juice runs down our chins.
While I can't offer you a piece of John's amazing pie, I can direct you to his equally if not more so delicious poetry here.
P.S. The secret to the best Snickerdoodles, as tested by Dan and I, is to not leave out the Cream of Tartar. It gives them an irreplaceable tang.